I have said before in previous posts that the life youth ministers engage in when they accept the call to minister to students is far from normal. I am not saying it is wrong, it is just different.
Because of this lack of normalcy, youth ministers have to go the extra mile to make sure they are living a healthy lifestyle. With all the demands and stresses that youth ministers face in ministry as well as their personal lives it is vitally important for them to remain healthy and fit. As I was telling a friend of mine about a recent balancing act I have been doing, he suggested that I stop and focus first on getting healthy myself. He challenged me that the only way I can make it through this recent juggling act is if I was taking care of myself – physically, spiritually and emotionally.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”
To honor God with our body, we have to nurture ourselves and stay healthy. We cannot neglect what our body needs. But how do you do this? It sounds good, but what are some practical ways for you to get healthy in your life so that you can be more fit for yourself, your family and your ministry? Let’s look at a few ways.
- Physically. You can start making yourself healthy in how you take care of your body. As a youth minister it is easy to eat fast food and snacks, to stay up late as well as meet students for breakfast and to be “on” at all times during the day. With all the physical demands on your body, it is no wonder why there are so many who burn out. Because you can have very draining and stressful days, not even including if you have a spouse and children (That adds a whole different dynamic to time commitments to be discussed another time), you have to take care of our physical bodies. In order to keep your body fit and strong one thing you can do is to go out and exercise. It can be running, walking, lifting weights or all of them. Whatever you choose to do, the important thing is that you are getting out and exercising. You also need to watch what you eat! Teenagers eat like crazy and can devour tons of junk food and let it not pack on the pounds. I remember those days very well! But as you get older, it is harder to lose those pounds you put on. Therefore, you need to cut out all the extra eating so that you can stay in better shape. Remember, if our bodies break down because we are not healthy and fit, we will not be effective in reaching students or our families for Christ. We owe it to them, but most importantly, we owe it to OURSELVES.
- Spiritually. Spend time with Christ! This sounds like a no-brainer, but I’m talking about spending personal time with Him – not because you are doing message prep or you are looking for a verse for a student. This is you spending time with Christ for YOUR BENEFIT! It can be very easy to confuse message prep scripture reading with your own personal devotion time. I have done this many times. Sure, I get something out of it, but I have to dig deeper and study for my own benefit. When I read something that I am not trying to teach, I get so much out of it and I am also able to encourage others (even students) with my learnings. It makes me more effective because students know that this is hitting me and is real to me as I seek to apply it to my personal life! It’s not just something I am saying because I’m speaking about it at youth group. So take some time and spend time with Christ just for you!
- Emotionally. Basically, you need to Vent and go to counseling. Don’t let the stigma that if you are going to a counselor you have serious “issues” affect your decision to seek counsel. After all the countless hours youth ministers spend giving to others and listening to their cries for help, it can be overwhelming at times to take on their pain and burden. You have to vent somehow. You cannot keep it all inside you. There is only so much you can bear so it is vitally important to have someone you can vent to. You need to get it off your chest somehow or else it is going to keep eating at you. Also, RELAX. Watch some movies by yourself or with your spouse. Take time to have emotional check-out times. In this very busy world we are raised up that if you are not “on” all the time or doing something you are a loser. Even though we all know that is not true in theory, the reality is that in the realm of youth ministry if you do not take time to relax and enjoy yourself, your family and your spouse you are going to wake up one day wondering where it all went.
Being challenged by my friend to be healthy has been a great exercise for me. For example, I just started running. The thing is I HATE RUNNING! But I know that it is moving towards ME being HEALTHY and FIT! My runs have not been long ones, but I am trying to run for at least 30 minutes each day. In that running, I put on some awesome music (some secular and some Christian) on my iPod. But, it was funny, when I ran to the secular music, I was mad and angry at life. I got all worked up over the smallest things. But then, when I ran to Christian music, my shift focused from anger to God. It was as if God was ministering to me and nurturing me as I ran. As I ran and lifted my eyes up to the heavens, I cried, I praised Him, I allowed him to rest over me. I ran with a higher purpose in mind. As I ran and focused on Christ, my mindset focused on trusting God’s will and allowing Him to take care of me – wherever He leads me. I will be at peace about it because I know that God is going to take care of me.
- Start planning some ways you can be healthy in your own life. Do you need to start exercising or stop eating so much? Do you need to go to the movies with some “non ministry” buddies or even by yourself? Do you need to vent off some steam to someone else? What are some practical steps you can take this week to get yourself more healthy?
- Then, just do it! Start full force and don’t look back. Allow God to minister to you and soak it in!
By the way, if you are interested, the 3 songs I run to the most were:
- “O Praise Him” by David Crowder Band
- “Speaking Louder than Before” by Jeremy Camp
- “Until the Whole World hears” by Casting Crowns.